There’s good news if you want to get one of the best 5G phones with your next phone purchase — you no longer have to pay up for the privilege of owning a phone capable of working with speedy 5G networks.
In part, that’s because nearly all of the best phones available these days come with 5G compatibility. But it’s also because less expensive options feature 5G compatibility, and that’s before the 5G-ready Google Pixel 6a arrives at the end of this month.
Why so many 5G phone options? Because 5G networks have gotten more expansive. T-Mobile leads the way with a nationwide 5G network covering 315 million people, but Verizon and AT&T have launched new C-Band 5G networks that bring super fast speeds to a wider audience.
Our favorite 5G phones offer more than just speedier downloads. The best 5G phones feature outstanding cameras, big displays and super-sized batteries. Best of all, you don’t even have to buy the priciest phone out there these days to get 5G, as compatibility is now standard on midrange and even budget handsets.
Here are the best 5G phones available right now, at a wide range of prices.
What are the best 5G phones?
The iPhone 13 Pro Max heads our list of the best 5G phones rankings, thanks to a big battery that helps fuel longer battery life than before. But the super-sized iPhone offers other benefits like even better 5G support than the iPhone 12 lineup provided, along with a fast-refreshing display.
Any of the new iPhones would be a good choice if you’re looking for the best 5G phone, as all four models support a lot of different 5G networks. The iPhone 13 is particularly appealing, thanks to its $799 price. If you prefer Android to iOS devices, Samsung’s Galaxy S22 Ultra leads the charge for the electronic giant’s latest trio of flagship phones.
If you want one of the best performing cameras on a 5G phone, consider the Google Pixel 6. The Pixel 6a delivers good photos on a budget, easily outmatching other low-cost 5G options like the Galaxy A53 and iPhone SE (2022). Those phones cost less than $450, but if you need to go even cheaper, try the OnePlus Nord N20.
Back to school and best 5G phones
Summer’s here right now, but school will be back in session soon. To prepare yourself, check out the back-to-school sales for discounts on the devices that can improve your studies or your dorm room. That includes deals on the top 5G phones, which are seeing discounts from both retailers and phone carriers during the summer. You can find everything you need in our back-to-school guide, which covers all your possible shopping needs this season.
The best 5G phones you can buy right now
The iPhone 13 Pro Max is the best 5G phone available after replacing our previous pick, the iPhone 12 Pro Max. As good as that phone was, the iPhone 13 Pro Max improves upon it in every significant way, including ones that are important to 5G.
Like its predecessor, the iPhone 13 Pro Max offers extensive 5G support. But a bigger battery means the new Apple phone lasts longer on a charge — more than 12 hours in our testing, which is among the longest lasting phones currently on the market. The iPhone 13 Pro Max lasts that long even though Apple added a dynamically adjusting display, which has proven to be a power drain on other devices. Here, with the help of the efficient A15 Bionic chipset, the iPhone 13 Pro Max thrives.
The new phone weighs a little bit more than Apple’s older model. But with all the improvements and the extended 5G support, the iPhone 13 Pro Max is a device 5G enthusiasts will love.
Read our full iPhone 13 Pro Max review.
Samsung’s top-of-the-line Galaxy S model is the device to get if you want the very best 5G phone for Android. The Galaxy S22 Ultra has a vast 6.8-inch screen with a fast refresh rate that’s been refined from last year’s model. The screen is brighter, too, and very easy to see even in direct sunlight.
The U.S. version of the Galaxy S22 Ultra uses a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset, offering a modest performance boost over the Galaxy S21 Ultra. (In other markets, Samsung uses an Exynos 2200 chipset.) We wish that battery life was better — the S22 Ultra has taken a step back from the S21 Ultra in our testing — but Samsung has improved the phone in other key areas, such as cameras.
With the phone available from every major carrier, you won’t have any trouble connecting to 5G with the Galaxy S22 Ultra. It’s a worthy addition to Samsung’s lineup.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review.
Apple’s iPhone Pro models get the fancier features, but the standard iPhone 13 is a way to enjoy a great 5G phone for less. Improvements throughout the iPhone 13 lineup — a bigger battery, a smaller notch, and wider 5G support than before — are on display here, but for a low $799 price.
Unlike past models, you don’t have to sacrifice storage. The iPhoine 13 features 128GB in its base model, double what Apple used to provide. That an a vast improvement in battery life over the iPhone 12 makes this an ideal 5G phone.
Read our full iPhone 13 review.
If you’re willing to overlook its disappointing battery life, the Google Pixel 6a is hard to beat as the best cheap 5G phone overall. Credit the cameras, which always stand out on Google’s budget devices.
Like its predecessors, the Pixel 6a’s cameras can challenge much more expensive phones. And unlike the iPhone SE (its closest competitor on the cheap camera phone front), the Pixel 6a supports a night mode. And it has an ultrawide camera for those sweeping landscape shots. You’ll also find a Tensor chipset powering the Pixel 6a. That’s the same silicon inside Google’s Pixel 6 flagships.
For $449, you get a lot of value with the Pixel 6a. It has support for sub-6GHz 5G networks.
Read our full Google Pixel 6a review.
The Pixel 5a isn’t the only 5G phone that comes in at $449. That’s the same price as the Samsung Galaxy A53, which is compatible with any 5G network in the U.S. It won’t rival flagship phones for performance, but it’s still a solid option with a handsome design — and it outmuscled the Pixel 5a in our benchmark tests. (Google’s phone has the better cameras, though.)
Unlike many budget phones, the Galaxy A53 features a 120Hz refresh rate for its 6.5-inch display. That can have a little bit of impact on battery life, with the A53 turning in average time when you enable the faster refresh rate. The phone lasted longer when we kept its refresh rate locked at 60Hz.
You’ll find more fully featured options on our best 5G phones list, but the Galaxy A53 gives you a good performer that requires few compromises for its sub-$500 price tag.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy A53 review.
The Google Pixel 6 is an attractive 5G option because it offers a relatively low price — it starts at $599 — while still retaining premium features. Google’s new Tensor chip powers the phone, fueling a lot of machine learning-driven capabilities. It’s also a terrific camera phone, especially with the Pixel 5a on its way out of Google’s Pixel lineup.
That said, there are some caveats, particularly related to 5G coverage. If you want a phone that works on the higher-speed networks of AT&T and Verizon, you’ll need to buy the Pixel 6 directly from those carriers — and it costs more than the $599 Google and T-Mobile are charging. There’s also an older modem in the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, and we suspect that’s hampering battery life.
Nevertheless, the Pixel 6 gives you the opportunity to connect with 5G in an affordable phone that offers cutting-edge features. That’s enough to make up for some of the 5G shortcomings.
Read our full Google Pixel 6 review.
Most of the best 5G phones tend be on the oversized side, but not so the iPhone 13 mini. Like its predecessor from a year ago, the iPhone 13 mini comes in a handheld size that weighs less than 5 ounces. Yet, it packs enough support for 5G to work with bands on all the major carriers.
Apple increased the battery size from the iPhone 12 mini, so the iPhone 13 mini lasts longer on a charge. Battery life is still below average relative to other phones, but few other phones run on a chip as powerful as Apple’s A15 Bionic chipset — at least until the new iPhone SE with 5G arrives.
Read our full iPhone 13 mini review.
Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro is a great choice for people who want the best features of Apple’s phone lineup but either don’t want to pay up for the iPhone 13 Pro Max or don’t like its large size. This year, there’s little difference between the iPhone 13 Pro models, so you can get Apple’s top features in a phone with a 6.1-inch screen that’s $100 less than the $1,099 iPhone 13 Pro Max.
That means iPhone 13 Pro owners will enjoy extensive 5G support and longer battery life, thanks to a bigger battery and the power efficiency of Apple’s At15 Bionic chipset. You also get a dynamically refreshing display that can scale up to 120Hz when needed for smoother screening. All that comes in a relatively slender 7-ounce design that’s easy to tote around.
Read our full iPhone 13 Pro review.
If you want a Samsung flagship that connects to 5G, but don’t want to pay the $1,199 cost of the Galaxy S22 Ultra, the Galaxy S22 Plus is a great alternative. It’s got a big screen in its own right, and that display is very bright, too. Like the Ultra, the Galaxy S22 Plus runs on a Snapdragon Gen 1 chipset, and while the cameras aren’t as advanced on this model, Samsung did make some welcome improvements to the zoom feature and the main lens.
Battery life is about the same as it was on the Galaxy S21 Plus, meaning only average times on our battery life test. But with support for every kind of 5G network, the Galaxy S22 Plus is a terrific big-screen option for enjoying faster connectivity. If you don’t need that big of a screen, the compact Galaxy S22 offers the same performance and camera benefits as the Plus, but at a lower $799 starting price.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus review.
5G phones come in all shapes and sizes nowadays, but the OnePlus 10 Pro lives large. Despite its size, we found the phone to be pretty comfortable to hold and use. It has a big 6.7-inch QHD AMOLED display, a 5,000 mAh battery, and triple rear cameras.
In our testing, the OnePlus 10 Pro is one of the best Android phones you can buy. The battery life is spectacular, the cameras are great, and the performance is top-notch. However, AT&T customers will need beware because there is no 5G support on AT&T for this phone. T-Mobile is the official carrier partner and OnePlus is working on Verizon certification.
Read our full OnePlus 10 Pro review.
Apple has brought 5G to the iPhone SE, meaning fans of compact phones can enjoy the faster speeds the new networking standard delivers. Even better, the iPhone SE (2022) is powered by the A15 Bionic chipset, the same silicon found in the iPhone 13 lineup. So as small as the iPhone SE may be, it doesn’t short-change you on performance.
5G support comes with one caveat, though. The iPhone SE (2022) won’t work with mmWave-based 5G. That’s not a huge deal-killer, as Verizon is moving away from mmWave in favor of C-Band 5G, which offers fast speeds at a wider range. Still, iPhone 13 models don’t compromise on which 5G networks they support.
The camera on the iPhone SE is a good performer, though we wish it supported a Night mode. Still, the $429 price is hard to beat, especially for people who prefer small phones and are ready to make the leap to 5G.
Read our full iPhone SE (2022) review.
If you’re strapped for cash, then be sure to check out the OnePlus Nord N20. This is a sub-$300 phone that looks like it’d cost way more. It has a beautiful AMOLED display, even though it’s locked at 60Hz. There’s also an in-display fingerprint sensor, not something you typically see on a phone this cheap.
Sure, the cameras are pretty underwhelming, but for $282, you can’t expect too much. You do, however, get 33W fast charging, which outpaces even some of the top flagships like the Galaxy S22 Ultra and iPhone 13 Pro Max. That’s saying something.
Obviously, there are better phones under the $500 mark, but if $300 is your cap, then the Nord N20 should be your top consideration if you’re comfortable using T-Mobile’s 5G network.
Read our full OnePlus Nord N20 5G review.
How to choose the best 5G phone for you
When looking for a 5G phone, you’ll want to consider which wireless carrier will be providing your cell phone service. Different service providers are taking different approaches to their 5G rollouts.
Verizon, for example, has placed an emphasis on mmWave-based technology at the beginning, so if you plan on getting your phone service from Big Red, you had best make sure that your 5G phone is capable of connecting to mmWave towers, especially now that Verizon’s Ultra Wideband network can reach 90 million people. Likewise, while T-Mobile and AT&T have a few mmWave deployments, the vast majority of their network relies on sub-6GHz technology for initial coverage. That’s not as fast as mmWave, but it covers a wider area. (AT&T is expanding its mmWave-based coverage, though, for faster performance.)
In its January 2022 report (opens in new tab), OpenSignal ranked T-Mobile tops for 5G download and upload speeds as well as for availability and reach. Rootmetrics also highly rates T-Mobile’s 5G performance and availability, though it ranks Verizon higher on 5G reliability.
Apart from what 5G networks a phone supports, the criteria for picking a 5G phone is about the same as it would be for any handset. Consider the processor, screen size, cameras and other features. Battery is especially important — 5G can draw some serious power, and you’ll want a phone that’s able to handle the added demands on its battery.
Price remains an important distinguishing factor, and it’s going to get more so as lower-cost 5G phones roll out later this year. In 2019, you had to pay anywhere from $700 to $1,200 for a flagship 5G phone. Even with the Galaxy Z Fold 3 costing $1,700 — a price that has more to do with its foldable design than its 5G support — the price range for 5G phones has begun to fall with a rapidly increasing number 5G models available for $500 or less.
How we test 5G phones
To test phones with 5G connectivity, we take them out into the field to measure download speeds with the Speedtest.net app. When possible, we compare that speed to a comparable phone on the same wireless network to try and gauge the improvement that 5G has to offer. We also take note of how the phone performs when 5G coverage isn’t available.
Because so much of that 5G performance hinges on the wireless network and not the phone itself, though, we give greater weight to the criteria by which we judge all phones. We run an array of benchmarks on every phone — both synthetic benchmarks as well as real-world tests like transcoding a 4K video to 1080p and timing how long it takes. Our lab also measures the brightness and color accuracy of each phone’s display. Our proprietary battery test determines longevity on a charge by endlessly streaming web pages over an LTE network; we then recharge the tested phones to see how quickly they charge in 15-minute intervals.
To measure camera performance, we shoot images under a variety of conditions, comparing the results to photos produced by cameras in the same price range.
For 5G phones, we also consider the price of the device compared to comparable LTE handsets.